Driving to Memphis was fairly uneventful, and I arrived on the later side and made a last minute impulse decision to stay at the Graceland campgrounds since I didn’t have a good sense of where anything was in the city and had heard from multiple people that there were definitely some neighborhoods that were better suited to overnighting than others, but I hadn’t found them yet so seemed like a good idea to stage myself close to the ridiculous Elvis mecca for my next morning’s tour.
Yes, I 100% went to Graceland and paid all the overpriced fees to tour the home, grounds, and exhibits. I’m not an obsessed superfan or anything but like most Elvis hits, and the whole over the top personality and lifestyle. Plus I love the movie Lilo & Stitch. Stitch Elvis might be my favorite Elvis impersonator. I look at it kind of like the Eiffel Tower- you know it’s going to be underwhelming in person, but you’ve gotta do it while you’re there, right?
I actually really liked the iPad self guided tour they give you- best part: narrated by John Stamos! Uncle Jesse was the ultimate Elvis fan so his voice guiding me through was a clutch choice. They even gave his character a spot as one of the celebrities influenced by the King. Ha!
The mansion was super out of control in the funky decor department. Jungle room with tiki masks and a waterfall? White 10′ leather couch with peacock stained glass? Wall o’ tvs? Game room that looks like a crazy fabric circus tent? Hall of mirrors staircase? Horses and go karts? All yes. The mansion tour ends at the memorial grave area by the pool, and there was for sure a grown man tearing up humming a song to himself. People have covered the brick wall outside Graceland with handwritten messages, too.
Back in the main visitor center area there are buildings full of Elvis’s cars, motorcycles, army gear, outfits, records, and anything else one could imagine. To try to fill more space and justify the high prices they padded it with a Priscilla exhibit, one one on the studio who discovered Elvis, and items owned by celebs who cite Elvis as inspiration- this was a super stretch for me but fun I guess.
After Graceland, it only felt right to try the (probably not accurate) Elvis sandwich- the fried peanut butter and banana on wonder bread. And the internet tells me one of the best spots to get this craziness is the Arcade Restaurant, a site in itself. The Arcade is a 50s/60s style diner that is so authentic still that it’s often used as a movie set. Plus good food, and I don’t mind admitting that my Elvis sandwich was delicious (would be even better with a drizzle of honey I think), though odd paired with the greek salad I got on the side. I sat at the counter next to a lady who ended up being suuuuper chatty and unloaded all her work and life issues, most termite related. Nice lady, good recs for things to do in the city which I am embarrassed to say I promptly forgot most of.
Down the street I spent the rest of the afternoon at the Civil Rights Museum in the Lorraine Motel, site of the MLK assassination. The museum was exquisitely put together and I could have spent the full day there. There was a mix of multimedia, reading, photos, sculpture, and information ranging from the transport of enslaved people to the Americas to the more Black Power movement and Civil Rights Act, with a little more modern info thrown in at the end but that didn’t seem to be the era of focus.
That night I went downtown to Beale Street to check out some music, and I was not disappointed. In all I saw 4 bands at different venues ranging from blues to rock to country, and loved the vibes of each different place. I chatted for a while with a few groups of people, one being a pair of ex-army buddy guys who tried to teach me how to dance unsuccessfully. The street was beautiful all aglow, and I totally indulged in singing ‘Walking in Memphis’ to myself a few times and finding myself very clever on each occasion.
The next morning I walked across the Mississippi from Tennessee to Arkansas and back, which was just the chilly bit of exercise I needed after a night out. Elsewhere in the city I stumbled upon some other funky sites, like a pyramid Bass Pro Shop with hotel inside?!? So unclear why this exists, but it was cool and I almost slept in their parking lot for kicks.
On my route out of town that morning I stopped at a few roadside attractions on the outskirts of the city- one was an old (but still operational) dairy stand with polar bear statues having a snow ball fight for some reason, and the other was a site in a cemetery where this artist created a grotto of religious scenes made from crystals inside a fake mountain tree thing… bizarre but pretty? Who knew cemeteries would be such a wealth of interesting art.
All in all had a wonderful experience at each stop in Tennessee. Going to hop back on the parkway and head south into Mississippi, another new state for me!